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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS–Critical analysis of the state of higher education in India

The Editorial covers GS paper 2 [Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.]

Context

The state of higher education in India can be easily described by the recently–released Quacquarelli Symonds and Times Higher Education rankings of global universities, only three IITs could feature in the top 200 of these lists, and none in the top 100.

The term “Higher Education”, in India, refers to post-secondary (post-plus two) or tertiary level education

What is the structure of higher education in India?

  • In the Indian system, higher education includes the education imparted after the 10+2 stage – ten years of primary and secondary education followed by two years of higher secondary education. 
  • The first degree, the Bachelor’s degree is obtained after three years study in the case of liberal arts, and four years in the case of most professional degrees (four and half in case of two years duration.) 
  • The research degrees (M. Phil. and Ph.D.) take variable time depending upon the individual student. 
  • The post graduate degree programme involves two years of study after the first degree. 

 

What are the types of Universities?

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The university-level institutions in the Indian higher education system are basically of three types:

  • Conventional University are tertiary-level institutions that are established through an Act of Parliament or State Legislatures. They are almost entirely funded by Governments.
  • Deemed Universities are institutions that are deemed–to–be-universities for the purposes of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956. 
  • Institutions of National Importance are institutions established, or so designated, by Acts of Parliament that undertake teaching and research in areas that are critical to national development. Examples are the Seven Indian Institutes of Technology etc.
  • The bulk of undergraduate teaching is done in colleges. These are of two types – the constituent colleges and the affiliated colleges. 
  • Constituent Colleges, also known as Conducted Colleges, are those that are established and managed by the University. 
  • Affiliated Colleges are those that are set-up and managed, outside the university campus, either by the government or by educational trusts. 

What are the highlights of the survey?

 

Fall in professional education pursuance

  • The government defines professional education as higher education programmes that are meant for students to acquire knowledge, skills, and competencies for a specific profession or a class of occupations.
  • Since the academic year 2015-16, the number of students pursuing professional courses at the undergraduate level has decreased by 7,21,506 (roughly 9%).
  • Enrolment in PG professional programmes dropped by almost 32%, from 18,07,646 in 2015-16 to 12,36,404 in 2018-19. 

Fall in enrolment

  • According to the survey, total enrolment in higher education has been estimated to be 3.74 crore, as opposed to 3.66 crore the year before.
  • The waning popularity of professional degrees seems to have renewed interest in academics. 

Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER)

  • GER is a statistical measure for determining the number of students enrolled in UG, PG and research-level studies within the country and expressed as a percentage of the population in the 18-23 years age group.
  • The present GER in higher education is 26.3%, up from 25.8% in 2017-18. 

Gender Parity on rise

  • Gender Parity Index (GPI), the female: male ratio in higher education measures progress towards gender equity.
  • The GPI has increased over the last five years, from 0.92 in 2014-15 to 1 in 2018-19.

Humanities is more popular

  • The highest number of students are enrolled in Arts courses.
  • Science is the second major stream with 47.13 lakh students, of which 49% are male and 51% are female.
  • Commerce is the third major stream with 40.3 lakh students enrolled. 
Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR)  
  • In Universities and Colleges, PTR is 29 if regular mode enrolment is considered whereas PTR for Universities and its Constituent Units is 18 for regular mode.
  • 40,813 students were awarded Ph.D. level degree during 2018 with 23,765 males and 17,048 females.
  • Scheduled Caste students constitute 14.9% and Scheduled Tribes students 5.5% of the total enrolment. 36.3% students belong to Other Backward Classes. 
  • 5.2% students belong to Muslim Minority and 2.3% from other Minority Communities.
  • There are more than 78.0% colleges running in Private sector; aided and unaided taken together, but it caters to only 66.4% of the total enrolment.

What are the issues and challenges before higher educational sector in India?

The Standing Committee on Human Resource Development submitted its report on ‘Issues and challenges before higher educational sector in India’ in 2017. The key observations and recommendations of the Committee are as follows: 

Shortage of resources:  

  • Bulk of the enrolment in higher education is handled by state universities and their affiliated colleges.  
  • Nearly 65% of the University Grants Commission (UGC) budget is utilised by the central universities and their colleges while state universities and their affiliated colleges get only the remaining 35%.   
  • The Committee recommends that the mobilisation of funds in state universities should be explored through other means such as endowments, contributions from industry, alumni, etc.

 

Teacher vacancies:  

  • According to UGC, out of the total sanctioned teaching posts, 5,925 (35%) professor posts, 2,183 (46%) associate professor posts and 2,459 (26%) assistant professor posts are vacant.
  • This could be due to two reasons:
    • young students don’t find the teaching profession attractive; or 
    • the recruitment process is long and involves too many procedural formalities.  

What are the recommendations?

The recruitment process should start well before a post is vacated.  In addition, to make the profession of teaching more lucrative, faculty should be encouraged to undertake consultancy projects and be provided financial support for start-ups. 

Accountability and performance of teachers:  

  • At present, there is no mechanism for ensuring the accountability and performance of professors in universities and colleges.  
  • This is unlike foreign universities where the performance of college faculty is evaluated by their peers and students.  
  • Recommendations: In this context, a system of performance audit of professors based on the feedback given by their students and colleagues should be set up.  Other inputs like research papers, publications by teachers should be added in the performance audit in due course of time. 

Lack of employable skills:  

  • Lack of employable skills in students of technical education has been observed.  
  • Identification of skill gaps in different sectors and offering courses for enhancing employability in them has been recommended.  
  • Recommendations: Some strategies in this regard can include: (i) Industry Institute Student Training Support, (ii) Industrial Challenge Open Forum, (iii) Long Term Student Industry Placement Scheme, and (iv) Industrial Finishing Schools. 

Accreditation of institutions:  

  • The National Board of Accreditation should act as a catalyst towards quality enhancement and quality assurance of higher technical education.
  • Credit rating agencies, reputed industry associations, media houses and professional bodies should be encouraged to carry forward the process of rating of Indian universities and institutions.   

Nonperformance of UGC:

  • UGC is overregulation in areas where it needed to back off such as admissions and funding but was under regulating where its interventions were most needed such as ensuring if the quality standards were being met. 
  • Over time the UGC became incredibly adept at mismanaging funds even as it resisted the push for greater autonomy coming from institutions. 
  • The Draft Higher Education Commission of India comes with its own set of challenges but it certainly disrupts the existing status quo which was most needed.

Conclusion

“Doing more with less”, and by involving professionals from research institutes as instructors of UG research, the higher education system will be able to deal with shortage of faculty and reduce their workload. 

To maintain the multidisciplinary nature of this programme, UGC’s choice-based credit system needs to be intertwined with the UG research programme, so as to allow mobility of students within disciplines, campuses and external organisations.

Students should be inducted in the first year in ‘professional skills workshops’ that train them in basic skills such as writing research papers and reports, etc.

Bodies like UGC should initiate conferences where UG researchers can present their papers before their peers, so that it becomes a trial ground for them for larger, national or international conferences.

Mentors should also assist students in getting published in existing UG research journals and/or offer them co-authorships.

Source: The Hindu.